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Joseph Montgomery, active in Irish groups here and nationally

Neither Joseph E. Montgomery nor his parents were born in Ireland, but that did not lessen his obvious devotion to his Irish American heritage.

Joseph E. Montgomery
Joseph E. MontgomeryRead more

Neither Joseph E. Montgomery nor his parents were born in Ireland, but that did not lessen his obvious devotion to his Irish American heritage.

"He just enjoyed Irish culture," son Patrick said.

Mr. Montgomery, 95, of Merchantville, was president from 1958 to 1998 of Division 65 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the national Irish Catholic fraternal organization.

The division, with members across the Philadelphia region, was named after Mr. Montgomery in 1998, its 100th anniversary year. It was the first time that a division was named for a living person, Patrick said.

Mr. Montgomery was grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Philadelphia in 1993. For six decades, he was a member of the St. Patrick's Day Observance Committee, for which at one time he was president and corresponding secretary.

And in 2009, he was inducted into the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame, maintained at the Commodore John Barry Irish Center in West Mount Airy.

On Wednesday, Dec. 3, Mr. Montgomery, a former driver for a grocery wholesaler, died at a relative's home in Manahawkin, N.J.

Patrick J. Mulhern, president of Division 65 for the last six years, said, "I was constantly amazed to see the respect he garnered at not only state but also national conventions" of the order.

"I always said the only thing missing was a ring to be kissed," as if he were a member of the church hierarchy.

"I will remember Joe as the epitome of an Irish gentleman, consider myself better for having known him, and will sadly miss his friendship."

Mr. Montgomery began his career in the order in the late 1940s, and was named 1983 Man of the Year by the United Irish-American Societies of the Delaware Valley, of which he once was president.

He was president of the order's Philadelphia board for four two-year terms, his son said, president of the Pennsylvania state board, and national chairman of the Freedom for All Ireland Committee, an effort by the order to promote the uniting of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

In 1976, he was secretary of the Irish Participation Committee for the 41st International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia.

"He first got involved in the AOH through his father-in-law, who was an immigrant from Sligo," Patrick said.

Mr. Montgomery's wife's father, Patrick Collis, was a member, but "never did get involved to the extent of holding offices," he said.

Mr. Montgomery, though, served with enough distinction, his son said, that "he was very proud of the life membership that he was awarded" by the order in 1992.

His family came from County Cavan, "but he never really said how far back." Still, Mr. Montgomery made three trips to Ireland, and he was "probably about 81, 82, when he made his last trip."

Born in South Philadelphia, Mr. Montgomery attended Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, left "to help support the family," his son said, joined the Army in 1940, and served in the Canal Zone.

During World War II, he was in the Army Air Corps, working as a waist gunner on bombers flying antisubmarine patrols off the Canal Zone.

In 1946, he began his career as a driver, delivering in eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware for what became the Frankford-Quaker Grocery Co., a wholesaler in Northeast Philadelphia.

He retired early, at age 62, his son said with a laugh at his longevity, because friends had died shortly after retiring at 65 and "he wanted to have a retirement before he passed."

He was a member of Local 107 and Local 500 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and, in retirement, was recording secretary for many years for the Teamsters Retiree Association.

Mr. Montgomery was a longtime member of the former Transfiguration Church at 56th Street and Cedar Avenue in West Philadelphia, where he was a tenor in the church choir.

Later, he was an usher at Saturday afternoon Masses at St. Cecilia Church in Pennsauken, taking collections until he was 93, and a member of the church's senior citizen group, the Half Century Jets.

Into his early 90s, he exercised by lifting weights and riding a stationary bike.

Besides his son, Mr. Montgomery is survived by daughters Kathleen DePetris and Joanne, a brother, five grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren. His wife of 55 years, Mary, died in 1998.

A viewing was set from 9 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 9, at St. Cecilia Church, 4824 Camden Ave., Pennsauken, N.J. 08110, before a noon Funeral Mass there. Interment with military honors was to be in Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.

Donations may be sent to the church at the above address.

Condolences may be offered to the family at

610-313-8134 @WNaedele